I live in an apartment complex. Each apartment unit has two doors - one toward a patio and one toward a vestibule that leads to another door outside. The patio-facing doors are in pairs, so they are relatively close to each other. They are all small spaces.
Recently (within the past month), a new resident moved in next door. She set up some chairs on the patio in between our two doors and regularly sits with friends and smokes. Since she's moved in, I've noticed the distinct smell of smoke within my own unit, and it appears to be coming from outside. She sits with her cohorts in between our two doors against the wall, so the close proximity causes the smoke to infiltrate my unit.
I posted a letter on the wall stating that - for the first time in two years - I now have the smell of cigarette smoke in my apartment and that I narrowed down the root cause after observing activity outside of my window. I stated that this is a common issue because of the infrastructure of the buildings, but that most other smokers in the community have found that moving away from the wall or to the side of their door - rather than in between the two doors - can help minimize the impact. I hoped that this would be something that could be done without impacting enjoyment of the patio area.
I received an e-mail from the landlord stating that the resident had come by with the letter I left and clarifying that she's sorry that the smoke bothers me, but residents are allowed to smoke outside of their door and that we cannot require them to smoke away from their apartment. She stated that the resident is a nice lady who did not intend any disrespect or ill will. She also stated that I am a good tenant and that she's happy to have me here, but sometimes in apartment living there will be issues with neighbors. The e-mail ended with a thanks for my cooperation and understanding. (?)
I responded by thanking her for her feedback and telling her that most other residents seem willing to accommodate similar concerns without an issue, and that I'm sure a "nice lady" would move a few feet away to avoid suffocating me with secondhand smoke; we're not talking about a difficult request. I said that I would have thought that a basic issue like regular access to clean air within one's own home would've been a concern of hers, but that - at the end of the day - I will continue to stand up for myself with or without her support.
The question is:
Through the previously mentioned Google searches, I've seen several other discussion board users indicate that this type of issue - even in situations more extreme than mine - are not issues that impact the warranty of habitability or covenant of quiet enjoyment that exists in every lease. So, if someone impacted by a situation like this were to try to withhold rent or break the lease, he would have no case on either basis.
I guess my question here is: if that's the case... why? It's common knowledge that second hand smoke can have a serious impact on the health of others. I'm sure you don't need me to quote the CDC's studies on its impact to cardiovascular and respiratory health in nonsmokers. Thus, it's not merely an inconvenience, and it's not something that can be corrected by opening a window (god, depending on which one, that'd make the issue worse, LOL) or installing a filter. Frankly, from my point of view, those aren't things I should even have to do since I'm within my own home. What people choose to do with their health on their own time is their business, but I think I have a right to not be subjected to headaches, a higher risk for cancers, and fatigue because of someone else's crappy lifestyle.
Wouldn't a serious potential hazard that is within the landlord's control and can be easily corrected without an undue hardship (don't freak out, I know that's a legal term used in a different context - I'm using it as an expression here) be deemed to have an impact on the implied covenants within the lease?
The results seem to be mixed, but there seems to be precedent for courts going in favor of tenants. With the passage of time and increased awareness on the impact of secondhand smoke on our health, why would I - as a tenant - be unable to hold a landlord accountable for this?